Resistance to Abington v. Schempp

The Supreme Court’s decision in Abington v. Schempp (holding daily devotional reading of the Bible and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public school unconstitutional) is one of the most controversial opinions in the entire religion clause canon, perhaps the most controversial.  This story from a couple of days ago in the NY Times reports that it continues to be resisted.  The story gets several things wrong.  For example, consider this statement: “It has been nearly 50 years since the Supreme Court  ruled that officially sponsored prayer in public schools violated the separation of church and state.”  In the first place, “the separation of church and state” is not a standard that a majority of the Supreme Court uses or has ever used to adjudge the constitutionality of a law or policy.  And in the second, assuming that the reference is to Schempp, it is not true that the Supreme Court decided anything of the kind in that case.  It decided that daily devotional reading of the Bible and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer which was intended by the school as a religious ceremony was unconstitutional.  It much later (decades later) decided in a series of opinions that the inclusion of prayers in other school-sponsored activities was also unconstitutional.  At any event, the story contains some interesting reporting on a current controversy discussed earlier here.

Alderman on The Designation of West Bank Mosques as Israeli National Heritage Sites

Kimberly L. Alderman (University of Wisconsin Law School) has posted The Designation of West Bank Mosques as Israeli National Heritage Sites: Using the 1954 Hague Convention to Protect Against in Situ Cultural Appropriation. The abstract follows. – ARH

This Article considers whether the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (“1954 Hague Convention”) should extend to protect against in situ appropriation of culturally significant sites. This Article examines the text and spirit of the 1954 Hague Convention, and inquires whether the 1954 Hague Convention imposes an obligation on its Signing Parties to protect not just the physical integrity of culturally significant sites, but also the relationship of local peoples with those sites. This Article uses the recent dispute over the Ibrahimi and Bilal Bin Rabah Mosques (also called the Cave of Machpelah and Rachel’s Tomb, respectively) on the Palestinian West Bank as a lens through which to make this inquiry.

Secular Netherlands

A couple of days ago I wrote that reports about the prevalence of secularism in Britain may be exaggerated. According to an article last week in Der Spiegel, reports of secularism in the Netherlands would not be. The article profiles Marc de Beyer, an art historian in Utrecht whose specialty is church artifacts – statues, crucifixes, altars, and the like. Lately, de Beyer has been getting a lot of work as a consultant on church liquidations. When a church closes, he can be very helpful in advising which objects will sell, and for how much. Pews are much in demand. Der Spiegel says that “Christianity’s retreat from society” has been very pronounced in the Netherlands, where two churches close per week. The Protestant Church alone loses 60,000 persons a year. At that rate, the article says, the Dutch Protestant Church “will cease to exist” by 2050.